Truly Green Plastic™ is an environmentally encouraging solution to packaging cannabis in traditional non-disposable, plastic bags.
This product comes from cannabis biomass and it is biodegradable. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by it. There is so much waste in packaging cannabis for sale. Truly Green Plastic™ offers an alternative that is good for the earth.
Warren Bobrow=WB: Where are you from? Where do you live now? How did you discover the business you are in now? What is your professional background?
Tarek Moharram=TM: I’ve been fortunate to have already experienced living in three different countries and two separate continents. I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, but my family moved to nearby London a few years after I was born.
When I was in early elementary school (and after a year of being home-schooled), our family sold almost everything and moved to Egypt (where my father was born). We spent the first few months living in Cairo and then transitioned to a little resort town on the shore of the Red Sea called Hurghada. Living there showed me a whole different side to life.
Many of the people we knew didn’t have very much in the way of material possessions, and it made me appreciate all of the things for which I quickly became thankful. I don’t speak Arabic though, and so it was a difficult adjustment to make, at times. After about a year, it became pretty clear that our future wasn’t in Egypt, and so we moved back to London, Canada.
That was a tough decision for my father, who had far better career prospects in his home country than in the West – but, he did it anyways because it was the best thing for our family.
I spent more than a decade growing up in London. Once I earned my Bachelor’s (with honours and specialization in political science), it was time for another move – this time, to New York City for law school. I lived for three years in a pre-war walk-up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn – now my second time living in a neighbourhood where English was not the predominant language.
I learned a lot about life, myself, and a little bit about law, too.
Well before I graduated or made Dean’s List, I knew that I wanted to do something more broadly focused than practicing law.
I started planning my career in business and I also came up with my first invention – a performance recognition system for e-reading which I successfully patented in the United States.
During the first few years out of law school, I was in healthcare leadership – specifically in Long-Term Care (LTC). I managed two LTC homes during this period, each with a couple of hundred employees and annual operating budgets around of $10-$12M.
I had success in these roles, but I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I was mostly focused on preventing things from happening rather than making things happen.
Much to the shock of those around me, I quit before I had turned 30 and started a construction company with a business partner that was focused on seniors’ living environments. We spent three years scaling it into a million-dollar business, at which point I sold my half to my partner and used the proceeds to establish my current company, Moharram Ventures.
WB: Please tell me about your company? What do you do? Where do you want to take your ideas?
TM: I often call Moharram Ventures a project management and business consulting company – but, really, we’re an idea factory. We take concepts and build them into reality.
My role to this point has been to catalyze our projects based upon opportunities that I identify, build agile teams which are capable of turning my concepts into reality, and creating the partnerships necessary to ensure our work has the greatest possible impact.
As time goes on, and the size and capacity of our Contributor teams expand, we will be working on more than just my ideas – there will be plenty of brilliant concepts which arise from other members of our team.
One of the projects we’re most proud of has resulted in the creation of Truly Green Plastic™. At first, it was a simple idea – why didn’t dog waste bags have the capacity to break down in landfill based on contact with their organic contents? I realized that the products which were on the market at the time were over-engineered – they could do much more than hold dog waste and, as a result, took much longer than needed to break down.
Many of the so-called ‘biodegradable’ options required either industrial composting plants (which are sparsely available) or significant access to oxygen and sunlight in order to break down (circumstances which do not exist when buried under layer upon layer of other types of landfill waste).
I built a team of experts and challenged them to make a polymer that would naturally break down based on contact with organic matter within less than a year and leave no harmful residual material behind.
The other problem with traditional biodegradable plastics that we had to solve was one of cost – in addition to poor mechanical properties, past biodegradable polymers were far too expensive to create widespread consumer demand. In order to succeed, we had to also make our solution affordable.
Our team has discovered that cannabis plant biomass can produce biodegradable plastics with enhanced mechanical properties and developed the technology to accomplish this feat.
Also, since this particular input material is often discarded as waste, using it to create Truly Green Plastic™ helps to drive down our production cost because waste removal becomes an additional revenue stream to subsidize our expenses. Shockingly, only about 10% of what is grown to support the adult use cannabis marketplace ends up on the shelves – the rest is biomass we can use!
We’ve also realized that our sustainable polymers can be turned into many more things than just dog waste bags – other types of packaging materials (like envelope films and press & twist containers), drug delivery devices (like inhalers and transdermal patches), and hospitality products (like straws and food packaging) are just some of the options we are considering at this time.
Our work has been funded by the Government of Canada through a partnership with Lambton College and we have begun attracting significant interest from the investment community.
WB: What is your six and twelve-month plan? What obstacles do you face? How do you anticipate removing them?
TM: An area where I need to do better is promoting awareness about our team’s breakthrough innovations. Truly Green Plastic™ is a game-changer and it’s my responsibility to ensure that the right people know we exist.
Our team has been doing the first part of that famous Ted Turner adage quite well, my job is to handle the second part. In the next six months, we will have at least one partnership with a company who produces biomass and/or a party who contributes to the consumer packaged goods value chain.
A year from now, there are two possible directions available to us – we will have either entirely sold our intellectual property or we will be constructing a processing facility and evaluating the process to go public.
Obstacles? The existing regulatory environment. However, this is becoming less of an issue and more of an opportunity each day. We’ve been having meaningful discussions with legislators and regulators in a handful of jurisdictions to more appropriately tailor the existing rules to promote opportunities for bio-circular economies of scale to occur.
Nothing has been set in stone at this point, but we have faith in the partners with whom we have been working and I am confident that we can clear a sensible path forward.
WB: Moving to a culinary question, just because. What is your favorite food memory from growing up? Do you have a favorite recipe that you or someone else cooks for you? What is your favorite restaurant? Where?
TM: Growing up, my family certainly wasn’t the wealthiest in the neighbourhood. My parents worked incredibly hard to support the family and it’s only because of their sacrifices that I have accomplished what I have in life.
Based on the facts that resources were sometimes scarce, and because they were (and are) quite skilled in the kitchen, I was the beneficiary of all sorts of simple, yet tasty dishes.
A few come to mind – toasted tomato sandwiches, lentil soup, biscuits – but, I would probably say tortillas with cinnamon and brown sugar. Take a tortilla, heat it in a frying pan with a little butter, drop in some cinnamon and brown sugar, fold it up before taking it out of the pan, and voila! Simple, yet satisfying.
WB: What is your passion?
TM: Learning. There are so many things to know. So much information available, knowledge to be gained, experiences to embrace. I’m an avid reader and, through books, my perspective on life continues to expand.
Without having curiosity – that desire to become more than you were yesterday by adding kernels wisdom – one simply cannot enhance one’s ability to take effective action in this world.
My legacy will be made up of the things I create – the teams, companies, products, services, and concepts. As long as I can keep making things, I’m happy.
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